CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Thursday, March 2, 2017

HO Roster: covered hoppers

A couple of years ago, I was sitting around looking at my train cars and noticed that I didn't have very many covered hoppers. I thought this was odd, and determined from that point on to try and find kits for some at train shows. Unlike boxcars, though, covered hoppers are somewhat limited in terms of what they can carry and many times the cars are dedicated to certain commodities. For example, the long trough roof hatches are generally used on cars carrying grain while the round roof ones are for things like plastic pellets. Evidence of spilled cement on the cars indicates cement inside the cars, etc.

While any type of covered hopper could presumably travel on a through freight on the Colonie Main, there were a couple of nearby shippers that likely had cars appear somewhat regularly. Howes Cave cement plant was a little west of Albany. And, the General Electric silicone plant in Waterford shipped powdered silicone in covered hoppers. The Freihofer Bakery received shipments of flour in Pillsbury Airslide covered hoppers from a siding in Colonie by the yard, though I don't know if that continued into the 1980s. Cargill in the Port of Albany was and still is a huge broker of grain. So, I could justify more than a few on my trains.

As much as I like Athearn, I find their covered hopper kits are frustrating. They seem really wobbly even if you ditch their stamped steel weight and put some down low in the wells where it can really do some good. Their ends are separate pieces and you need to get them lined up correctly inside the shell and then fit it into the floor properly without pushing something wrong and breaking the coupler mounting pads. And, the underframes are always unpainted black plastic requiring you to hopefully find a matching color to paint them.

MDC kits are okay, but the roof hatches always need a lot of trimming of flash which means touching up the paint. Their "detail parts" for the discharge chutes are a a case study in frustration. In fact, when MR magazine assembled some years ago for their project layout they had trouble too and said to throw them out. Walthers kits are better but have so many fragile end details on their airslide cars that after assembling them I found pieces just kept falling off. And, those round roof hatches with three separate "bolts" to glue down are a pain. I purchased and assembled four of their kits for $5 each, and I sometimes wonder if I paid too much for them. But, once completed they look nice. Thankfully, Accurail kits are a joy to put together.

I collected about 18 cars over the past couple of years. The D&H had red covered hoppers and the silver short covered hoppers are pretty snazzy, and I have examples of both on my roster. I hope to get some more of the Bowser silver ones, as I haven't tried one of their kits yet. All of my cars are weathered based on prototype photos, though not necessarily for that specific car and road number.

There are certain details which go a long way to establishing what lading a car contains and I plan to add a few examples to my models. For example, grain cars always have spilled seed on the roof and some sprouts. Cement collected on the roof around the hatches and hardened. Roof hatches become damaged over time and replaced, frequently with non-matching hatches. I really should paint a couple of hatches a contrasting color to represent this. And, though I was heavy with some of the rust on the cars it seems like in the northeast you can never have "too much" rust. Sometimes the entire upper portions are just orangish-brown from all the rust. My roster needs more of are Conrail brown cylinderical covered hoppers with the large can opener logo. I like the way they look, and remember seeing many as a child.

In a rare exception to my general rule, I was at the Springfield train show a couple of years ago and saw that Spring Mills Depot was selling Flexi-Flo covered hoppers for about $50. Since I don't usually pay more than $10 for a car, this was huge sum for a ready-to-run car and out of my comfort zone. I haven't seen many Flexi-flo cars- model or prototype- but the large can opener scheme fit my time era so I started talking with the people at SMD. Turns out, they have only seen a picture of one prototype painted in this scheme and due to a predicted low demand only made 48 models in this scheme. They had two left in inventory, but didn't bring them. The next day I went online and bought it. It's an exquisite car, and very unique. I don't have any idea if it ever made its way up to Albany but because of its rarity I doubt it. Still, it was much safer to buy it now and ask questions later. It currently sits in the box, untouched. (image taken from their website).

This last picture shows a non-covered hopper, but I thought I would mention it anyway. When I got back into HO in 2010 I decided to start slowly by picking up a couple of HO kits. One included this D&H coal hopper. If you have been following my blog you will quickly realize that this car has no real business being on my roster. In fact, when I bought it I wasn't sure what I was going to model. It just looked fun to put together. However, my wife saw it and immediately claimed it as her own, and has done all of the work on it to date. She assembled it, did the weathering, and installed the false floor for the eventual coal load. I am quite proud of her accomplishments. Once finished, it will be a very special car.

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